[Republic of Texas] Phelps & Ensign’s Travellers’ Guide, and Map of the United States, containing the roads, distances, steam boat and canal routes &c.
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Phelps & Ensign’s 1841 map of the United States: the embodiment of early American enterprise and patriotism.
Listen to Kristoffer discuss this map:
This historic map of the United States depicts the nation prior to the conference of statehood on the Republic of Texas (1845), prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty (1848), and prior to the Gadsden Purchase (1854). In this way, the map constitutes both a comprehensive cartographic visualization of national pride and identity, as well as a version of that idea that predates so many important events that would come to shape the American experience and consciousness. As such, the map captures an evolving America, in which most of the lands west of the Mississippi remain a frontier. We see, for example, that Missouri and Iowa Territories, while clearly defined, are still enormous unmapped regions, whereas a diminutive Texas is being squeezed by its larger neighbors.
The map is deliberately decorative. Measuring 34 by 28 inches, it was printed on four separate sheets and subsequently backed on linen for longevity and stabilization. The subdivision of these frames is not as one would imagine. Rather than being four equal sized sheets, each sheet was printed with one distinct part of the whole. Thus, the main sheet is the map itself, which constitutes the entire upper two-thirds of the chart in its entirety. The lower half of the map consists of three parts, all of which are pictorial. In unison they provide a gallery of national imagery and symbolism meant to instill patriotic pride in the viewer.
For their part, the two smaller and flanking sheets each contain five portraits of former presidents. In the middle, the fourth sheet contains four smaller scenes in the top tier (i.e. the landing of the Pilgrims, the Battle of Lexington, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and General Washington’s farewell to the Army), below which is a larger depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence based on Trumbull’s famous painting. The text of the Declaration is printed in full in the lower left corner of the map sheet. An interesting technical element to this map is the fact that the smaller portrait sheets were printed as copper engravings, while the two larger sheets, with pictorial scenes and the map, were lithographed.
The map itself covers an area from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Atlantic in the east, and from Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in the north, to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. Having been issued in the early 1840s, Texas is of course shown as an independent Republic (1836-45), while the lands further west would continue to be Mexican territory for another seven years. This vast swathe of land, which now constitutes a core part of the United States, only came under American jurisdiction following the US-Mexican War (1846-48) and the signing of the Treat of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848).
Major roads and settlements are noted throughout the country, and both states and territories have been color-coded and clearly labeled for easy identification, underlining that this map was meant to be seen, not shelved. A somewhat new element in maps meant for public display was the inclusion of Native American tribal affiliations in the Territories and beyond. This reflects just how ignorant most Easterners were of this country’s indigenous inhabitants.
In the lower right corner of the map, we find a series of small insets depicting first the Florida Keys and then the vicinities of America’s thirteen major ports at this time (i.e. New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, Mobile, Cincinnati, St Louis, Charleston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.). To the left of the map, three further insets depict physiographical data and include a schematic view of the ‘Chief Rivers’ of the World, with principal towns noted along them; then a double-hemispheric depiction of the world; and finally, a ‘comparative view of the principle mountains of the world’ in which America’s peaks are compared and contrasted with those in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Below this, we find the largest bit of text on the map, which is a full printing of the Declaration of Independence, including a key to identify the signatories.
The OCLC lists 25 versions of this map in library collections across the world. Among the listed copies, the earliest dates to 1839 and the the latest to 1845.
Original wash color. Overall wear with some small losses to image, abrasions. Toned as usual, mounted on linen for stabilization and longevity.